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I don't know how much more of this I can take, but I know I'm going to take more.
Anyone with an eye on precious metal miners knows the saga by now: 82-year-old senior silver producer Coeur d'Alene Mines (NYSE: CDE ) was nearly crushed by the combined weight of the 2008 metals correction and a series of setbacks in its aggressive multimine build-out phase.
Since the company moved from the bottom of the heap to near the top of the silver sector virtually overnight, a battalion of battle-weary investors has awaited an overdue reward for their enduring patience, preferably on the company's bottom line. Given the sector's impressive record of recent margin expansion, the second quarter seemed an appropriate time for Coeur d'Alene Mines to deliver significant profitability.
Unfortunately, despite very impressive operational achievements, Coeur posted a second-quarter net loss of $50.7 million, following a painful $42.5 million fair-value adjustment relating to the company's gold royalty obligation (at least 400,000 ounces of the Palmarejo Mine's future production) with royalty specialist Franco-Nevada.
Essentially, the cost of the company's $75 million capital injection, which helped bring Palmarejo into production and ease a major crisis of confidence in the shares, continues to rise alongside the price of gold. Royalty payments in the second quarter raised total cash costs of production by 4% over the cash operating cost of $8.06 per ounce.
As disappointing as that fair-value adjustment is to shareholders waiting for a lift from Coeur d'Alene, this Fool intends to stick around for the long haul. Near-term escalation of production costs causes me little concern, since it's not uncommon among miners executing simultaneous ramp-ups on multiple mines. For the full year 2010, Coeur intends to deliver 17.3 million ounces of silver (with 170,000 ounces of gold).
Coeur is guiding for significant operational improvement over the balance of the year. Part of that improvement will stem from higher-grade ores and improved ore blending procedures at Palmarejo, while the ramp-up underway at the new Kensington gold mine in Alaska will chip in some seriously cost-cutting gold production through the balance of the year.
Production from Palmarejo rose sharply for the month of July, and cash costs plummeted, from the $10.78 recorded in the second quarter to a negative cost (after gold credits) of ($0.97) per ounce. Despite a rough start, Coeur expects the mine's full-year cost to reach just $3 per ounce.
As Coeur d'Alene continues to work through its growing pains, incoming silver investors may be rightly inclined to consider top-quality performers like my top pick Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW ) or Fool favorite Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL ) instead. Fools eyeing potentially higher returns with a touch more risk might consider a solid U.S.-listed junior miner like Endeavour Silver (AMEX: EXK ) , or a resource-rich prospect like Silver Standard Resources (Nasdaq: SSRI ) . Over the next several years, I expect each of these names to perform admirably on the back of higher silver prices. To say I'm bullish about the prospects for the new Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSE: SIL ) would be an understatement.
Although Coeur d'Alene continues to break my heart, I remain a glutton for near-term punishment, sustained by the promise of long-term momentum in both production and profitability.